I N T E R V I E W
The Joint Chiefs
by Arpie Shirehorse
Wellington’s The Joint Chiefs play Nivara Lounge on Friday July 8th. One half of the band is The Datsuns drummer Ben Cole. Arpie Shirehorse caught up with the duo ahead of their first Hamilton show.
Who are The Joint Chiefs?
TJC: We are Ben and Heidi. Drums and keys respectively, and we both do vocals.
How long have you been together and what was the catalyst for the band's existence?
Ben: We've been playing together as The Joint Chiefs for about.... 5 years? Or thereaboots. We work slow! We first met at jazz school in Wellington about 16 years ago tho, so we've been playing together on and off since then.
Heidi: Neither of us had played in bands where we were the songwriters before, we'd only ever really played other people’s music. We had lots of ideas for songs and thought "F*** it, we can do everything with just the two of us, so let's do it." It's so easy with two people to organise things too. "Shall we have band practice?" "Yes." "Ok then."
Ben: There's no arguments about songs either. If we're working on something and one of us doesn't really like it, we don't do it. It's not like there's a finite amount of ideas to pick from and the well's gonna run dry. We play exactly the kind of music that we wanna play.
Are there any main influences that you guys draw from, any bands/artists that inspire you to do what you do?
Ben: Not really influences in the sense of wanting to sound like a particular thing, but more musicians who do their thing in a genuine way. Flaming Lips, PJ Harvey, Meatbodies, Thee Oh Sees, Black Diamond Heavies, Tom Waits, Reigning Sound. The list really does go on. Artists that sound like themselves regardless. They'd probably sound the same even if no one had ever heard of them.
Heidi: Between us we've got a pretty eclectic mix of stuff we like. We've introduced each other to loads of different bands. The combination of all those things comes out sounding like us.
What are the immediate plans for TJC - shows/releases etc?
Heidi: We're currently recording songs on a telephone. It's pretty low rent. We bring them home and do vocals in Garageband on our dying 8-year-old laptop.
Ben: We wanna play more shows, but these days most venues, in Wellington at least, wanna charge bands to play, even if it's a free show. I guess they're just trying to survive. But that's the goal, play more shows!
You're playing in Hamilton! Have you played here before as TJC?
TJC: Nope! Hopefully it won't be the last time either.
What would be the favourite show you’ve played as TJC?
Heidi: We played a show here in Wellington with our friend Death Disco. A dude was so moved by us he gave us $20. Now that's cutting out the middle man!
Ben: We opened for Jakob, and it was our first time with pro lighting which was cool. Heidi's pedal did something weird and blew people's heads off too. That was excellent.
Life in TJC is probably quite different to being in The Datsuns. Do you get time on the road with The Datsuns to think about TJC stuff?
Ben: Yeah, I've usually got ideas wandering about in my head. There's lots of travel time so it's a good way to spend that. There's always cool stuff to see and cool people to meet which certainly gets the old brain fizzing.
I would imagine the buzz from playing in front of thousands at a time is very different from maybe tens or hundreds...do they both have their own charm and do you have a preference?
Ben: The two bands are really two totally different things. I don't really mind how many people are there. I just love to play and if anyone comes along to whoop it up, that's great.
Have the other Datsuns heard TJC, and if so what do they think of it!?
Ben: Phil's daughter Siggy is a massive fan!
Finally...will we be able to grab any merch at the show on July 8th?
Heidi: We're hopefully gonna make some shirts. Someone bought our album off bandcamp the other day, our first sale ever. A cool five bucks! That was pretty swell. Maybe we'll put it on memory sticks. The sky's our oyster!